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Bloody violence hits Afghanistan as President Ghani heads to Doha for talks

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a car bomb attack that targeted Laghman provincial governor's convoy, in Mihtarlam, Laghman Province on October 5, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Fresh bloodshed has rocked Laghman province in eastern Afghanistan as President Ashraf Ghani left Kabul for a visit to Doha for meetings with Qatari officials amid inconclusive US-brokered negotiations with the Taliban militants.

Ghani and his entourage will first head to Kuwait to attend a memorial ceremony for the late Kuwaiti emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah, before moving on to the Qatari capital Doha later on October 5.

Ghani's spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said the Afghan leader will offer his condolences in Kuwait City before traveling to Doha. 

"Several meetings are planned to discuss efforts for deepening Afghanistan-Qatar ties and mutual cooperation in various areas," the aide told media on Monday.

He added that Ghani was also scheduled to meet with Afghan government negotiators in Doha, who were for the first time holding intra-Afghan direct talks with the Taliban representatives.

No peace in sight

Sources familiar with Ghani's itinerary said the Afghan president would not be meeting with the Taliban negotiators participating in the intra-Afghan talks. 

"[I]t is clear that Ghani will not meet the Taliban officials as there has been no reduction of violence and they continue to kill innocent civilians," a senior Western diplomat overseeing the Afghan negotiations in Doha that started last month said.

Negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban were aimed at restoring peace to Afghanistan. However, so far that goal has remained elusive with bloody violence still plaguing the country.

In the latest attack, a militant targeted the provincial governor's convoy in Lahgman on Monday, killing at least eight people.

The assailant rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the convoy of Rahmatullah Yarmal, leaving 28 others injured. 

The governor remained unharmed but four of his bodyguards and four civilians lost their lives in the attack.

Interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian confirmed that most of those injured were civilians.

So far there has not been any claim of responsibility, but the region is where the Taliban hold a presence.

The talks were part of a February peace deal between the militants and the United States. However, news coming out of Doha suggest that the Taliban have demanded a renegotiation of the conditions that were agreed upon in their earlier meetings with the Americans that forced Kabul to release thousands of jailed militants.

Diplomatic sources believe shortly after the release of the hardliners, which was a precondition for direct talks, the negotiations bogged down on processes and procedures.

In past weeks, dozens of civilians, scores of Afghan soldiers and Taliban militants have been killed in intensive clashes and attacks across the war-torn country.

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